As some of you may be aware, I met with Peter F regularly over the past 20 years until, on 14th June, he was called into his Saviour’s presence and received ‘ultimate healing’. I’d like to share a few reflections and valuable life lessons I have learned along the way …
- Anyone with a mental illness needs to belong. Each person needs to be welcomed, appreciated, loved, understood and listened to with respect;
- If our church has anything to offer people with a mental illness, it is the provision of a space where they can truly feel that they belong;
- Our church has expected people to fit in with our Baptist culture and practices, and relate to others harmoniously – indeed our church has, in the past, had difficulty with people who are perceived as ‘different’;
- Our churches’ call is to meet those with mental illnesses, to learn to love them with the love and the passion of Jesus, and to offer them a place of belonging;
- Jesus calls those who are rejected and lonely to hope, and reveals to them that they are precious to God;
- Meeting with those with a mental illness ‘just as we are’ is rarely easy and becomes all the more difficult when they, at times, perceive the world quite differently from ourselves;
- Those with a mental illness may well be disciples of Jesus and they need to interact with other disciples, and be assured that they are truly appreciated and loved by God and others;
- Growing into love is a long, arduous journey with many hard challenges along the bumpy road called ‘friendship’ (1 Cor.13:4-7);
- Patience, kindness, perseverance, forgiveness and hope all take time, and such love is graciously given to us by the Holy Spirit;
- People living with the unimaginable pain and stigma of mental illnesses need to hear, see and feel the message of the love, acceptance and graceful forgiveness of Jesus.
It would be good for us to remember that it is in and through the Spirit that we are enabled to meet one another as we are, rather than as we might like one another to be. Through the gift of the Spirit we see that in Jesus ‘there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female [mentally well or mentally ill]. For we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28)!